Short Clip from ‘Friend Request Pending’
Mary Judi Dench
Linda Penny Ryder
Trevor Philip Jackson
Tom Tom Hiddleston
Jason John Macmillan
Directed by Chris Foggin
Written & Produced by Chris Croucher
Director of Photography Simon Tindall
Editor Chris Ranson
Production Designer Lisa McDiarmid
Costume Designer Hannah Wood
Make Up/Hair Designer Hannah Proverbs
Executive Producers Simon Curtis, Mike Elliott, Jim Mooney & Walli Ullah
Official Selection – 2011 55th BFI London Film Festival
Official Selection – 2012 London Short Film Festival
Official Selection – 2012 Berlin British Short Film Festival
Official Selection – 2012 Omaha Film Festival **
Official Selection – 2012 Ricon Film Festival Puerto Rico***
Official Selection – 2012 Print Screen Festival, Israel
Official Selection – 2012 Aspen ShortsFest****
Official Selection – 2012 Seattle International Film Festival
Official Selection – 2012 Palm Springs International Shortfest
Official Selection – 2012 CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival
Official Selection – 2012 Emden- Norderney Filmfestival
Official Selection – 2012 Short Shorts Asian Film Festival, Tokyo
Official Selection – 2012 East End Film Festival
Official Selection – 2012 Relative Film Festival Oxford
Official Selection – 2012 Rhode Island Film Festival *****
Official Selection – 2012 Washington DC Short Film Festival ******
Official Selection – 2012 Guanajuato International Film Festival, Mexico
Official Selection – 2012 Asiana International Short Film Festival
Official Selection – 2012 Calgary International Film Festival
Official Selection – 2012 Hamptons International Film Festival
Official Selection – 2012 New York City Short Film Festival •••••••
Official Selection – 2012 Naples International Film Festival ********
Official Selection – 2012 Heartland Fim Festival (Virginia)
Official Selection – 2012 Savannah Film Festival
Official Selection – 2012 Reel Film Festival For Bumbershoot (Seattle)
Official Selection – 2012 15th California Independent Film Festival *********
Official Selection – 2012 Rocky Mountains Womens Film Festival, Colorado
Official Selection – 2012 Be Film, The Underground Film Festival, New York
Official Selection – 2012 Chicago International Film Festival
Official Selection – 2013 St Louis International Film Festival
Official Selection – 2013 Dam Short Film Festival, Nevada
Official Selection – 2013 Newport Film Festival
Official Selection – 2013 Cleveland Film Festival
Official Selection – 2013 Prescott Film Festival
Official Selection – 2013 Prague Short Film Festival
Official Selection – 2013 Bermuda Film Festival
Official Selection – 2013 Florida Film Festival
(**Honourable Mention – Omaha Film Festival)
(*** Director’s Choice award for Best Comedy Film – Ricon Film Festival)
(****Audience Special Recognition – Aspen Film Festival)
(***** Best Comedy Short – Rhode Island)
(****** Audience Award – Washington DC Short Film Festival)
(******* Best Comedy Short – New York City Short Film Festival)
(******** Best Short Film – Naples International Film Festival)
(********* Best Short Film – California Independent Film Festival)
Also Screening across US, Europe and Canada as part of “Stars In Shorts” – www.starsinshorts.com
Also Screening Across UK as part of the New British Cinema Quarterly – www.nbcq.co.uk
Judi Dench readily admits that what she knows about social networking, twitter and facebook could be written on the back of a postage stamp. However, in between playing Mrs Fairfax in the 2011 big screen remake of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and preparing for her role as ‘M’ in the next Bond movie, Dench found herself sitting in the garden of a surburban Ealing house playing a character in a short film about social networking. One could be forgiven for asking why?
FRIEND REQUEST PENDING is a short comedy drama about the mature generation dating in our modern social networking world. It’s a tale of love but more importantly life long friendship. The twelve-minute tale tells the story of Mary (Judi Dench) and Linda (Penny Ryder) who spend an afternoon discussing the pleasures, pitfalls and problems with using social networking to try and woo the local choirmaster Trevor (Philip Jackson).
The Production Story
Friend Request Pending is a unique short film directed by Chris Foggin, written and produced by Chris Croucher and executive produced by EMU films and Simon Curtis.
Production began on FRP back in December 2010 when director Chris Foggin first approached writer Chris Croucher with the information that Judi Dench had agreed to make a project with him.
“We were driving to work last December, at about five in the morning, when Foggy and I had our first proper conversation about it,” recalls Croucher “We were working on The Deep Blue Sea at the time (both Chris’s currently work as Assistant Directors) and he calmly said that Judi Dench wanted to shoot a project with him, I was so shocked, I nearly crashed the car! So we set to work with getting a script together and it was full steam ahead. So, from the first conversation to finally being on set and turning the camera it was only six months.”
Friend Request Pending was filmed over two gloriously sunny days in May 2011 on location in Ealing. The film was shot digitally using the Arri D21 HD Camera.
The inspiration behind Friend Request Pending originated from two important sources close to the writer Chris Croucher, his best friend… and his mother!
“I was staying at a friend’s and he spent the whole night chatting a girl up on Facebook. I was fascinated by it and spent the whole evening watching him using social networking to get dates. At that point (which was back in 2009) I actually wrote an early draft of what I thought was going to be a two handed stage play called ‘Super Poke’ but it sat on the shelf for a while.”
The actual Idea of developing ‘Super Poke’ for Judi Dench hit Croucher out of the blue.
“I was talking to my mother and she was having a go at me because I’d barred her from my Facebook wall and I was thinking how hilarious it was that my mum was on there in the first place. It then dawned on me that I already had the perfect project for Judi.”
“The reality is,” says Croucher, “that the parents of my three best friends are also my friends on Facebook. There is something quite surreal about the older generation using social networking and poking people not realising the comedy intentions -getting poked by your future mother in law for example.”
The world of social networking is truly universal and according to Croucher has revolutionized how the young, and not so young, generations approach dating.
“What I find fascinating is how we use emails and text messages as romantic gestures. The amount of times I’ve sat in a pub with friends over analysing text messages from girls where they’ve only put one kiss but normally they put two kisses, what does this mean? Should I put a kiss? I’ve tried to put all those experiences into the script and apply them to a more mature generation.”
For director, Chris Foggin it was all ludicrously straight-forward. Chris Croucher had the perfect project and Foggin had just been offered the talents of one of the most sought after actors working today.
“I’ve worked with Judi three times and we always get on very well,’ he explains. “It was during the filming of My Week With Marilyn when Judi asked me what my long-term goals were and I told her I wanted to direct.”
It was at that point Dench offered to make a short film with Foggin who certainly didn’t need to be asked twice.
“I’m one of those people who if they get a whiff of an opportunity has to go for it. I couldn’t’ pass this up.”
With the idea and cast attached, the next step was to find the funding.
“I remember I was working on The Iron Lady with Meryl Streep at the time, as an Assistant Director’, recalls Foggin, ‘and Chris Croucher rang me to say he’d secured the funding from a production company called EMU Films.”
Chris explains, “I got a phone call from Mike Elliot at EMU, whom I had worked with previously when he was an A.D, and I explained the project to him. Within two days they’d given us the budget! We made this for only five thousand pounds, which is a real achievement and a testament to our amazing crew.”
With a filming plan firmly in place and a crew beginning to take shape the only thing left to do was to teach Judi and Penny how to use the internet! Chris Foggin had a plan;
“I wanted Judi and Penny to assume the internet knowledge and language of the younger generation of Facebook users. How long you are supposed to leave it before messaging? It used to be you met someone, waited three days before you phoned and then set up a date. But on Facebook you wait one day, add them as a friend, wait another day before sending a poke and then you wait another day until you message. There are these laws in social networking flirting and it’s ridiculous.”
“I had fun playing with the humour of the ladies using language that should be completely alien to them,” adds Croucher. “What we’ve found interesting is that neither Judi nor Penny have computers let alone using social networking, so to them it was like making a film in foreign language! In a way, this brings an innocence all of its own to the film.”
Croucher and Foggin are cautiously ambitious for the film.
“We would love to try and get a festival premiere at one of the top festivals like London. Then perhaps a festival tour, now that would be amazing,” says Croucher.
“This is a very different type of short film,’ adds Foggin. “I think British shorts have a tendency to be dark, gritty and quite depressing, whereas I hope this will be something a little bit different and more lighthearted.”
JUDI DENCH PLAYS MARY
“There is one very good reason I’m here” explains Dench “and that is because of the Director Chris Foggin,” she smiles “I did it because I met Foggy when he was a runner on Cranford, then again on Jane Eyre, which I made last year. Then he turned up as 3rd Assistant Director on My Week With Marilyn. He really is a remarkable young man. I’m doing it for him. He asked me and I’m here and it is a charming script.”
Dench plays Mary who, along with her best friend Linda (Penny Ryder), has discovered the joys of the internet. Completely at home with the online slang and language of the world wide web, Dench and Ryder take us through the early stages of Mary’s blossoming internet romance with local choirmaster Trevor, played by Philip Jackson.
“These are two women who have been friends for a long time and who have obviously discovered the joy of surfing, flirting and chatting online, which is something I haven’t enjoyed…ever!”
“I don’t have a computer,’ she continues, “but I know about social networking because of my grandson, who is thirteen. Although I’m not at all familiar with it, so it was a bit of a learning curve,” she explains. “I do love texting however, and I’m a mad texter-I love it! The excitement of the phone going off alerting me to a text is almost more than I can bear, I love it so much.”
Mary is introduced to the web by the much more experienced Linda. Mary’s current objective is to attempt to solicit a date with Trevor. Hilarity soon ensues as the pair debate the pros and cons of messaging; interpreting replies and whether adding ‘LOL’ at the end of a message means ‘Laugh Out Loud’ or ‘Lots of Love’.
The drama takes place in Mary’s kitchen where she is talking online to Trevor. She and Linda are deciding whether or not Mary should take the bull by the horns and ask him for dinner. Suddenly a message pops into her profile and the online dating game really begins…
Dench is arguably more in demand for Hollywood parts now than she ever has been. From her acclaimed role as Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown, to more recent roles in Jane Eyre and My Life with Marilyn, not forgetting the Bond franchise. Dench is considered one of the UKs finest actors.
Supporting the next generation of filmmakers is vitally important to Dench and her experience across the two day shoot in May 2011 certainly reinforced this commitment.
“Everyone here has given up their weekend off to do this shoot and that really says something about the boys (Chris Foggin and Chris Croucher). Funnily enough, Foggy said he wrote down his crew wish list and not one of them said no. That says a great deal about a person. I do think he’s going to be something special and I just want this to be terrific for him…move over Stephen Frears!”
Despite her role in Friend Request Pending Dench is reticent about dabbling in social-networking and reluctantly embraces technology.
“Doing this hasn’t encouraged me to join Facebook I’m afraid. I’ve recently got a Kindle but that’s because my eyesight is so bad that it means I can enlarge the print and so suddenly I can read a book in bed again. But I miss the actual physical thing of having a book, the smell of a book, because I’m a stationary freak, I love all that.”
“I’m an inveterate postcard writer and I find it a bit sad we don’t do that very often now. We don’t write to each other. I’ve collected postcards for years and years and years, which I find and write to people so I miss all that. But I can see that of course the Internet is going to be what everybody will use and how people will communicate.”
Dench approached the role of Mary in the same way that she approached her character in J Edgar, a film she worked on recently with Clint Eastwood and Armie Hammer, of The Social Network. “I approached this role in exactly the same way. It’s a question of learning the script, understanding the character and trying to understand this woman who is clearly getting carried away with it all,” she laughs.
“The main difference is that we’ve had two days to do this and everybody is just so good and efficient. I’m full of praise for them all. I can’t see how the boys could have bettered the experience for us. And more so, the next time you come to a film that is hugely funded one could possibly say couldn’t we do it in four days? I know a group who could.”
PENNY RYDER PLAYS LINDA
Penny Ryder has been a close friend of Judi’s for years, so when the offer came to play opposite Judi, as her best friend, she didn’t waste any time saying yes.
“Linda and Mary are great friends, much like the two of us, but she is trying to encourage Mary to get over her divorce and get back in the saddle via the internet,” she laughs.
Like her co-star, Ryder doesn’t possess a laptop or computer nor is she au-fait with the internet.
“It was quite difficult for Judi and I to get a handle on the net. I don’t have a computer but I have got an email address and I have to get other people to pick them up for me…which is terrible I know!” explains Ryder.
“One of the jokes about making this film is that Judi and I are completely computer illiterate – we text on our mobiles but we don’t know anything about computers so it’s been a bit tricky, but a lot of fun. We’ve actually had to have lessons in Facebook!”
Ryder’s character Linda, is happily married and settled with children while her friend Mary’s marriage has fallen apart.
“Linda has a heart of gold and is the type of person that will help anybody. She would be a wonderful friend to have, is very honest and doesn’t pull her punches,’ continues Ryder. “She’s just very straight forward and is a lovely, warm person, if not a bit wacky.”
Of the two friends, Linda is the more knowledgeable about the internet and speaks the language of the web fluently, though in reality Ryder is not a Facebook user.
“Since doing this I would absolutely consider joining facebook, partly because my children keep banging on at me, ‘oh come on mum you’ve got to pull yourself together.’”
Ryder sees participating in short films as a way to help the next generation of filmmakers get a head start.
“I narrated the last short I worked on and now it’s going to Sundance, which is marvelous. I would absolutely encourage my peers to get involved in shorts, because, aside from anything else, this film is such good fun.”
“It’s about the people who are making it,’ she adds, “We’re doing this for them and hopefully it will open up more opportunities in the future. This crew are joyous – it’s exactly like doing a feature length movie. Normally short films are quite tricky because they’re thrown together. But this is a really professional outfit, with no detail overlooked. A real testament to the two Chris’s”
In fact Ryder goes as far as to say this film has changed not only her outlook on computers, but also her perception of the internet.
“Both Judi and I are great Radio 4 listeners and there is so much available on the web that I know I am missing out on, such as being able to listen to programmes again or watch things I’ve missed. It has now become essential that I buy one. So that’s my big purchase following my next job.”
CHRIS FOGGIN – DIRECTOR
Having graduated from Northumbria University in 2008 with a BA in Media Production, Chris quickly gained work within the film industry. After a successful 18 months, he was working as an Assistant Director on such prestigious films as Madonna’s ‘W.E’, ‘The Iron Lady’ and ‘My Week with Marilyn’.
In this time, the relationships Chris had formed with both cast and crew within the industry have helped him to complete his directorial debut film ‘Friend Request Pending’ starring Dame Judi Dench, Penny Ryder & Tom Hiddleston
Chris is now developing more projects as a Director, both for television and film.